Lawrence is a city of creativity and weirdness, where college kids and artists alike have found their home. It’s the inspiration and setting for writer Daniel Hoyt’s new novel “This Book is Not For You.”
Hoyt, a Massachusetts native, got his bachelor's and master's at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Formerly a journalist, he is now a professor of English at Kansas State University. But for his doctorate, which he completed in 2004, Hoyt went to the University of Kansas. During his time as a doctoral student, he said he fell in love with Lawrence.
“This town felt like my real and true home,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt began his novel in 2003. He finished the book in 2014, and finally published it on Nov. 7 of this year.
Described as a “punk odyssey,” “This Book Is Not for You” is told by the main character Neptune, a troubled 19-year-old who steals dynamite from an anarchist group that plans to blow up Wescoe Hall on campus. Along the way, he encounters murder, a manhunt and a ghost all while he deals with his personal struggles.
Much of Hoyt’s time in Lawrence inspired the book.
The book features many Lawrence locations, including Harbour Lights, Eighth Street Taproom and the Bourgeois Pig.
“I thought it had a great sense of place,” Danny Caine, owner of the Raven Book Store, said. “It’s recognizably Lawrence in some ways, but in some ways it’s a lot crazier than the Lawrence that I know.”
But to Hoyt, the most important location is the Replay Lounge on Massachusetts Street, one of his favorite bars.
“I say that I spent too many hours [at the Replay],” Hoyt said. “But, I also think there will never be enough hours hanging out at the Replay.”
Hosted by the Raven Book Store, the novel’s launch party was held at the Replay Lounge last week. Hoyt read many of the scenes that took place in the Replay Lounge. Afterwards, artists La Guerre and Maria the Mexican performed.
A rock ‘n’ roll fan, Hoyt said music inspired much of the book’s “punk attitude.” The chapters are short to mimic songs. As well, every chapter of the book is a “Chapter One” which is meant to represent a new beginning and the idea that it’s much easier to start things than to finish them.
The novel was awarded the Dzanc Fiction Prize for experimental fiction by nonprofit Dzanc Books. The book discusses deeper issues such as alcoholism, loss and racism.
“In some ways, it’s a postmodern look at the history of bloody Kansas,” Hoyt said. “And unfortunately we’re still fighting some of these battles.”
He hopes the book makes people think about how fortunate they are in comparison to the main character.
“I’m here, and I’m a Kansan by choice,” Hoyt said. “At times Kansas breaks my heart but it’s my home and I want to make it a better place and a place for everyone.”
Above all, to Hoyt, it’s “an ode to Lawrence.”
— Edited by Omar Sanchez